Atomic Records is a major force in the history in Milwaukee's rock and roll scene of the past three decades. Now that Atomic will be history, local musicians think that owner Rich Menning deserves a 100 megaton send-off. On Saturday, Feb. 14, the Miramar Theater hosts Atomic Valentine, a live musical tribute to Atomic Records featuring Mark Waldoch, Eric Blowtorch, The Mighty Deer Lick, The Etiquette, Sometime Sweet Susan, Cherry Cake, The Lovelies, Boy Dirt Car and Liquid Pink. The show starts at 6:30 p.m.
The concert is organized by Damien Strigens -- former Lovelies drummer and part-time Atomic employee. Strigens says bands were so eager to be a part of the event that he had almost no work to do in assembling the line-up.
"This thing has come together pretty darned quick and easy," he says. "It started on New Year's Day when I was at the Bay View Polar Plunge chatting with (fellow musician) John Lyman. We got to talking about Atomic and the state of the music industry, etc. We asked each other if anyone had put anything together. We thought someone had to be doing something.
"We all know how integral Rich and Atomic have been for the local music scene over the past two decades. Something had to happen."
Strigens said he contacted his former bandmate Liv Mueller first.
"I went home, logged on to Facebook, and one of the first comments I saw was from Liv from The Lovelies. I chimed in and said 'Hey Liv, how 'bout a Lovelies reunion for Atomic as sort of a ‘thank you' show for Rich?' She thought it was a cool idea so I forwarded it to (bassist) Barb (Endes) who lives in Brooklyn. She was super-psyched. So I asked a few others and it has snowballed mainly from other people's suggestions."
Strigens notes that many of the participating bands recorded songs in 1987 for Atomic Records' LP / CD release, "Badger A Go Go." Liquid Pink, Boy Dirt Car, Cherry Cake and The Blowtorch were all on the Milwaukee compilation, which borrowed its name from a similar project from 20 years previous.
Others -- like The Lovelies, Sometime Sweet Susan and Mark Waldoch -- worked -- or had members that worked -- at Atomic.
"Pretty much everyone has been on board for this -- no hesitation from anyone," marvels Strigens.
"Never would I have imagined bands such as Liquid Pink, Sometime Sweet Susan, even my old band The Lovelies coming together for one night to play for something like this. It's really a testament to how much that little store meant to this city."
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.